Chapter 1 Overcoming Discouragement in Order to Lead

by Jonathan Falwell

In 1998 Gary L. McIntosh and Robert L. Edmondson wrote a book titled It Only Hurts on Monday: Why Pastors Quit and What You Can Do about It. The authors found that the demands and difficulties of ministry were so great that many pastors were unable to properly cope with the challenge. The title of the book came about when one pastor, who was asked how his ministry was going, replied, "It only hurts on Monday."

I'm sure most pastors understand that sentiment. Sundays can be difficult days for many pastors. And men who are unprepared to function in the multifaceted and trying world of a pastor typically do not remain in the ministry. Mondays become days of recovery and healing for many battered pastors. It would be easy to get discouraged if one's ministry was weighing this way on someone.

A few years ago pollster George Barna found that the average lifespan of a pastor in 1993 was only about four years. They just weren't prepared for leadership. In their book Mcintosh and Edmondson found that loneliness, burnout, an inadequate education and unrealistic ministry expectations were among the key reasons former pastors cited for giving up the ministry.

Writing as a man who has, on occasion, wondered whether I was really prepared to lead a church—and a church that my father lead so graciously and naturally for more than half a century, at that—my heart goes out to men who have found themselves so burdened by ministry that they were unable to carry on. I'm sure there are many pastors in our nation today who are discouraged in ministry or even on the brink of quitting. I want to direct this portion of our book on church innovation to them.

I believe the primary reason behind the discouraging rise of pastors either defaulting or stepping down from their roles is that they did not receive the proper training to prepare them for the treacherous job of leading a flock of believers. It certainly is not a job for those without proper grounding—and thick skins.

Tragically there are many former pastors in our nation who bear deep scars gained in ministry. I believe many of these battle scars can be avoided if pastors are properly and prayerfully prepared for leadership. In this chapter I want to focus on four key commitments to which every pastor needs to adhere so that he is equipped to lead his congregation. I want to examine what I call four "Nonnegotiable Commitments" that I believe pastors need to make to themselves and to God.

Non-negotiable Commitment 1: "I will remain spiritually intimate with my Savior."

A senior pastor is mandated to provide spiritual guidance and instruction to his congregation (see 2 Tim. 4:2). At the same time, a senior pastor is supposed to personally live out what he preaches so the people within his congregation can have a concrete example to follow (see Phil. 3:17). Therefore, I believe that it is difficult (and probably impossible) for a senior pastor to encourage his people to cultivate a spiritual intimacy with the Lord if he is not spending time in intimate worship with Jesus Christ.

A pastor cannot get so involved in the good and honorable work of the ministry to the point that his efforts replace the necessary one-on-one time with God. Too many pastors have neglected their personal growth in Christ in order to facilitate the spiritual growth of their flock. This leads to spiritual stagnancy. And when a pastor gets to such a point, he will soon discover that his leadership becomes ineffective. As pastors, we must determine that we will make time for our own focused time with Christ.

When I think of this commitment to remain spiritually intimate with my Savior, I often find myself reflecting on our Lord's words to Martha in Luke 10:38-42:

While they were traveling, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who also sat at the Lord's feet and was listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks, and she came up and asked, "Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to serve alone? So tell her to give me a hand."

The Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her."

Martha was doing an honorable task of preparing dinner for the Lord. And there was certainly nothing wrong with her desire to make ready a meal for Him. Even so, our Lord gave His own assessment of the weight of each task. Jesus provided an evaluation of working rigorously versus growing spiritually.

Jesus emphasized that cultivating intimacy with God should always be the priority in our lives. First, Jesus taught Martha, "But one thing is necessary." He made it abundantly clear that saturating your mind with God's Word is not simply a nice thing to do; it is a necessary thing to do.

Second, Jesus taught us, through His conversation with Martha, that saturating our minds with God's Word is not simply a good choice to make; it is the best choice to make ("Mary has made the right choice").

Third, Jesus showed us that saturating our mind with God's Word will not simply make a temporary impact; it will make an eternal impact ("it will not be taken away from her").

I believe that Jesus' words in this passage are crying out to pastors, especially those who are in need of encouragement. He is calling you to spiritually support your service to Him! Pastors, we must lead from a heart that remains intimate with our Savior. That intimacy comes only from regular quantity time with Him.